St Helena Island is now a breeding site for seabirds, as Ascension is, but it used to have more endemic birds, all but one, are now extinct. The wirebird (Charadrius sanctaehelenae) is a type of plover which lives in burrows around the island, and is the national bird. It is called the wirebird due to its thin legs that look like wire.
There are no native mammals on St Helena. Over the centuries several introduced mammals have gone feral. On St Helena these are cats, dogs, rabbits, rats and mice; donkeys and goats no longer roam free. Goats were introduced to St Helena by the Portuguese to provide passing ships with fresh meat.
About 1100 species of land invertebrates have been recorded from St Helena, and over 400 of these are endemic and occur nowhere else. The giant St Helena earwig is almost certainly extinct, the last chitinous remains having been found in the 1990s.
Jonathan, a Seychelles tortoise, was brought to St Helena in 1882. Jonathan’s current age has been estimated at approximately 180. He is said to be the oldest known member of his species, Testudinipae cytodira. Jonathan lives on the grounds of Plantation House along with David, Emma, Fredricka and Myrtle. These other four giant tortoises have joined Jonathan on the lawn of Plantation House only since the late 1960s. While occasionally eggs are laid by the female tortoises, none has ever produced offspring. You can visit the grounds at anytime of day.
Diana’s Peak National Park is home to about 33 species of spiders, 22 of which are endemic to St Helena. A few are conspicuous by their webs, whilst others can be seen hunting on the fronds of tree ferns or on the leaf rosettes of black cabbage trees.
The golden sail spider belongs to the Theridiidae family which builds irregular three dimensional scaffold webs. When hunting they steal their prey or eat the young from the webs of other spiders. The endemic blushing snail can also be found at Diana’s Peak National Park.